By Andrew Malone, Vanessa Allen and Paul Bentley
A bizarre photograph album filled page to page with pictures of Condoleezza Rice has been found at the compound of Colonel Gaddafi.
As citizens ransacked the sprawling lair, for the first time discovering the extent of riches enjoyed by their bloodthirsty tyrant, a number of unusual items have been looted. Perhaps the most surprising, however, was the album, filled with glossy pictures of America’s former Secretary of State.
Bizarre: Rebels show off the album featuring former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
found in Colonel Gaddafi’s residence, Bab Al Aziziya
Colonel Gaddafi had previously hinted at a serious admiration for Mrs Rice.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera television in 2007, where he hinted that then-President George W. Bush’s top diplomat wielded considerable influence in the Arab world.
‘I support my darling black African woman,’ he said at the time. ‘I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. … Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. … I love her very much. I admire her, and I’m proud of her, because she’s a black woman of African origin.’
The following year, Gaddafi and Rice had an opportunity to meet when the secretary of state paid a historic visit to Libya – one that made steps toward normalising relations after the United States went decades without an ambassador in Tripoli.
In person: Gaddafi met Condoleezza Rice in 2008 and insisted on calling her ‘leezza’
Cosy: The pair met in Tripoli on September 5, 2008 – an occasion thought at the time
to have signified reconciliation with the former enemy state
She said during the trip that the U.S. ‘doesn’t have any permanent enemies.’ Gaddafi welcomed Rice in his home – one that President Ronald Reagan once ordered bombed in retaliation for Libya’s attack on a German disco – for the traditional meal that ends the daylight fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Once again, he repeatedly addressed Rice – known as ‘Condi’ to her friends – as ‘Leezza’.
During the visit, he presented Rice with a diamond ring, a lute, a locket with an engraved likeness of himself inside and an inscribed edition of The Green Book, a personal political manifesto that explains his ‘Third Universal Theory for a new democratic society’. Together, the haul was worth $212,000.
Three years later, at Gaddafi’s compound today, Libyan rebels found the photo book.
Tribute: Gaddafi filled page after page with pictures of the former Secretary of State
Rebels leafed through the album yesterday after finding it as they rummaged through Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound.
Rice did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the discovery of the photos. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was also asked about the album.
‘I don’t need to see the photos,’ she said. ‘But bizarre and creepy are good adjectives to describe much of Gadhafi’s behavior. So (it) doesn’t surprise me. It’s deeply bizarre and deeply creepy, though, if it is as you described.’
Photographer Sergey Ponomarev was with the rebels as they looked through the album.
‘There were lots of rebels celebrating their victory,’ Mr Ponomarev said. ‘It was still unsafe – loyalists were shelling the compound from time to time – but rebels were celebrating the seizure of the Gadhafi compound. They believe the victory is in their hands. Some of them even brought their children to the scene.’
Astonishing: This teapot and teacups fairground ride was just one of sites that greeted insurgents
inside Gaddafi’s compound. They also found a zoo.
Sofa so good: A rebel fighter poses for a photo as he sits on a two-seater couch
Luxury: Rebel fighters and civilians stroll around the huge swimming pool
Trophy from his visit: This man carries a cup out of the Gaddafi compound while another man stands
among a collection of decommissioned munitions inside the residence
Looters were shocked at what they found at the compound.
One group of young men chose to tour Bab al-Aziziya in the dictator’s preferred mode of transport – the very same electric golf buggy he rode in to rest his 72-year-old legs. Even as they made their way through the shattered buildings, they could see for themselves sufficient remnants of the bizarre Michael Jackson-style Neverland park, complete with fairground and zoo, that Gaddafi constructed in the heart of the capital city.
In one of his palaces, expensive murals and art work hung from the walls and rooms were filled with replica 14th century furniture. Vast bathrooms with bidets and sunken baths adjoined most sleeping quarters. At the centre of the compound is the ‘House of Resistance’, Gaddafi’s former residence which was partially destroyed by a U.S. bombing raid in 1986.
Now it is a mausoleum, its furniture preserved untouched for 25 years within glass casing as a reminder of the attack.
If there was any morsel of sympathy to be gleaned for Gaddafi, it was from the ghostly bedroom of his adopted daughter Hana, who was only a few months old when she was killed in the raid.
Smashed: These glass cases protected the bed of Gaddafi’s adopted daughter Hana, whose bedroom
was a shrine following her death during a 1986 U.S. air strike
Trashed: Debris from reproduction furniture litters one of dictator’s palaces within the compound
Ransacked: Despite rebels at the gate imploring them not to loot the palaces,
many of them ignored their warnings
Debris: The looters at the compound took items including bedding, curtains and sheets,
only leaving behind items they either did not want, or couldn’t carry
There also appeared to be a shrine in honour of the little girl – a set of missiles ‘hung’, perhaps inappropriately, from the ceiling as though just fired from American jets.
The man with the golden gun: This man seized
the prized weapon from Gaddafi’s compound
Not far from a cluster of buildings used by Gaddafi’s family as sleeping quarters was a cinema where he would join his family to watch the latest western movies.
The most outlandish sight in this whole bizarre fantasyland was the fairground in the gardens.
It featured an old-fashioned carousel, with children’s seats on chains, and a roundabout decked out with a cartoon-style teapot and spinning cups for youngsters to play in. Some rebels could not resist posing for pictures in the giant teacup rides and laughing with incredulity that the dictator had taken flight from his own compound.
But one could only stare in disbelief at this theme park within a warzone. He snorted: ‘Libyan children have no childhood, their lives are destroyed by Gaddafi. But his children, his family, have everything.’
As if all this wasn’t enough, Gaddafi had also used some of the estimated £300billion he has plundered from the country to build a zoo, stocked with animals supplied by fellow African dictators.
Amid chaotic scenes, as snipers loyal to Gaddafi took pot shots at the looters from high buildings around the compound, people grabbed at anything they could get – sheets, bedding, curtains and whatever else was once owned by Gaddafi.
Vast: Almost every room in the palace had an adjoining bathroom with bidets and baths
Expensive: The walls of Gaddafi’s palaces were covered in artwork and murals such as this
Rebels at the gate implored them not to pillage or destroy the palace, saying it should be kept for the Libyan people.
But they could not resist stripping the compound of everything they could carry, including Gaddafi’s home cinema system, his table football games and a stereo.
A boy of ten struggled under the weight of his raided booty – a replica gun, a satellite television receiver and other spoils he carried in a suitcase he had taken. A soldier yelled at him to stop, but others shouted him down, saying: ‘Let him take what he wants, it belongs to him.’
Others proudly held aloft the dictator’s ‘blingy’ artefacts, including jewellery and a gold-plated gun.
They also tore down a massive Bedouin tent, where the tyrant liked to sleep during the hot summer months (and before Nato started raining bombs on his compound). It had been erected in world capitals during trade visits after supposedly renouncing violence in 2003. While one tent was torn down, another – even bigger in scale – was set on fire and razed to the ground.
Snap happy: Rebel fighters and civilians browse through Aisha Gaddafi’s photo albums
Not alone: Rebels also went through the belongs of Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha yesterday,
as well as posing for photos inside her home
Looting: A pair of rebels go through the book cases of Aisha Gaddafi at her home in Tripoli
Say cheese! A rebel poses for a photo on an ornate chair inside Aisha Gaddafi’s home
Relaxed: The rebel fighters have made themselves at home
Picture perfect: Rebel fighters take a closer look at Aisha Gaddafi’s photographs
Some spat on the ground as they entered the previously-forbidden zone, but others simply wanted to rejoice at their symbolic victory over a man who had brutally controlled their lives for so long.
University student Nidal, 20, said: ‘I never thought I would see inside this place. I will tell my grandchildren of this day.’ Holding up one of Gaddafi’s personal photo albums, a group of women flicked through the pages of Gaddafi alongside world leaders.
‘I can’t believe we are here!’ cried Falima, 23, whose father disappeared almost a decade ago after being caught speaking out against the regime. ‘He had everything he needed – and you people, from the west, helped him stay in power until you saw sense.’
Taking a look round: This group of Tripoli residents could hardly believe their eyes
when they entered Gaddafi’s compound yesterday
Try these for size: These two rebels examine clothes they want which belong to members
of the dictator’s family
The rebels look through photo albums belonging to family while they also took other items
See Related: Libya Archive